Airport should allow ad

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board September 23, 2013 08:52 am

We don’t share environmentalists’ concern about a bill pending in Congress that would allow logging to increase on some public forests in Western Oregon.

But we think they ought to be able to buy advertising space in Portland International Airport to plead their case.

The issue involves a campaign by several groups, including Oregon Wild and The Sierra Club, that dislike a proposal sponsored by three Oregon congressman — Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader and Republican Greg Walden — that would boost logging on about 1.5 million acres.

The groups’ campaign includes color ads with a photo of a clearcut forest and the slogan: “Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut."

The implication — that a whole lot more of Oregon will look like the clearcut if this bill passes — relies on the sort of exaggeration typical of advertising.

We’ll concede that a freshly clearcut forest isn’t exactly a sylvan scene. But there’s more to a clearcut than aesthetics. Jobs, for instance, which aren’t exactly abundant in Oregon these days.

That said, we’re troubled that the Port of Portland, a public agency that manages the Portland Airport, rejected the groups’ clearcut ad, citing the Port’s ban on political advertising.

The American Civil Liberties Union is backing the environmentalists, arguing that the Port, by turning down an ad based on its political content, is violating the Oregon Constitution’s free speech provisions.

We agree. Oregon’s Constitution is even more explicit, in protecting free speech, than is the federal Constitution.

Were the Portland Airport privately owned, its managers probably would have the legal right to reject the advertising.

But the Port of Portland is public.

As is Eugene’s airport, where a version of the environmentalists’ ad is posted.

Eugene airport officials made the right decision.

The Port of Portland got it wrong.